Located little more than a 30-minute drive from Lisbon, the granite Serra de Sintra is a place of wooded ravines and tumbling streams and was once a favorite summer retreat of Portugal’s royal court. In the town of Sintra itself, attractions include the extraordinary 19th-century Palácio Nacional da Pena and the summer residence of the kings of Portugal, the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. The lesser-known Quinta da Regaleira is an elaborate Manueline-Gothic mansion that its owner filled with enigmatic symbols relating to the Freemasons, Rosicrucians and Knights Templar. And the ruined medieval Castle of the Moors is also worth a visit, if for no other reason than its sweeping panoramic views over Sintra and the sea. Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of mainland Europe, lies 11 miles to the west. It is best to stay in Sintra in the fall, when the season’s mists and melancholy enhance the town’s romantic and mysterious atmosphere.
The Wine Region of the Lisbon Area
Set between Lisbon and Sintra, the Carcavelos wine region was famed in centuries past, but now only about 25 acres of vineyards have survived the suburban encroachments of Lisbon and Estoril. Since it’s almost impossible to find this nutty fortified wine outside of Portugal, I always seek it out when I’m in the area. Villa Oeiras is one of the last remaining producers, and old Casa Manoel Boullosa Quinta dos Pesos vintages can still be found.
Setúbal Peninsula's Alluring Views
It’s also easy to make a day trip to the Setúbal Peninsula, just across the Golden Gate-like 25 de Abril Bridge. Don’t miss the viewpoint overlooking the cliffside Convento de Nossa Senhora da Arrábida or the panoramas from the hilltop Castelo de Palmela. The peninsula also makes superb wines. If you visit one producer, make it Quinta da Bacalhôa, which has a 15th-century palace and an impressive art collection. We organized our excursion through Wine Tourism in Portugal.
A Lovely Lunch
Seaside Azenhas do Mar is a fine choice for lunch. Colares-Sintra. Tel. (351) 219-280-739.